School Spending Facts Contradict Funding Myth

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: John Bouder, 570-490-1042, [email protected]

Pa. School Spending Facts Contradict Underfunding Myth
Per-Pupil Spending Reaches All-Time High, Eclipses Most Other States

June 22, 2017, Harrisburg, Pa.â€"The annual state budget debate is synonymous with calls for more education funding. But facts are stubborn things: Pennsylvania already spends more per student than the vast majority of states. The question is, are we spending that money wisely?

Per the most recent figures from the state Department of Education, total school district spending topped $28 billion in 2016, an all-time high and an increase of more than 14 percent since 2012. State aid alone also reached a historic high of nearly $10.5 billion. Meanwhile, average per-pupil revenue reached $16,533, more than $3,500 above the national average. Districts have also socked away more than $4.4 billion in reserve funds.

Commonwealth Foundation senior policy analyst James Paul commented:

The myths surrounding education funding in Pennsylvania have distracted from the real crisis: Despite historic highs in education spending, students are falling behind. Nearly seven out of ten 8th graders failed to attain math proficiency on the 2016 PSSA, and more than four of ten 8th graders scored below proficient in reading.

In fact, the relationship between spending and academic achievement is tenuous at best. Simply put, more funding has not helped Pennsylvania students. Yet, for too long, we’ve checked the box of higher spending and congratulated ourselves for helping kids while ignoring the fact that we’re not actually helping kids.

The best solution to Pennsylvania’s education crisis is to provide children access to the education that meets their needs. This means strengthening and replicating successful charter schools, expanding the Educational Improvement and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits to serve more children, and breaking new ground with Education Savings Accountsâ€"which empower parents to fully customize their child’s learning experience. This is how we will give students the great education they deserveâ€"instead of empty promises wrapped in dollar bills.

James Paul and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

# # #
The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.